Welcoming a new addition to the family in the form of a furry friend is an incredibly exciting event. Naturally, it can feel daunting too, especially if you’re a first-time pet owner. So, we’ve teamed up with the wonderful team at Woodgreen Pets Charity to put together a plan and a checklist which features key considerations for this life-changing time.
Owning a pet is incredibly rewarding, but also a huge responsibility. Whether you’re looking to bring home a dog, cat or another beautiful companion who will enrich your life in the unique way pets do, we’ve included some things to bear in mind throughout the process.
We are really proud to have been able to work with Woodgreen to create this article and draw from their knowledge and experience. Woodgreen’s dedicated teams work tirelessly to provide safe shelter, specialist care and a brighter future for thousands of pets. They’re also there for owners in need of advice and support as well, each and every step of the way. You can find out more about the great work done by Woodgreen on their website here.
How to choose which the right pet for you and your family
● Commitment – can you commit?
The average lifespan of a dog or a cat is 10-15 years. If you’re unsure you can commit to the responsibility and attention required for this period, it might be worth considering a different species, such as a fish or perhaps a hamster.
● Affordability – how much can you afford?
Financially, pets can be expensive. There are everyday expenses, such as food, and regular expenses such as grooming (for example, certain breeds of dogs, cats and rabbits require regular grooming and upkeep). Veterinary care and other preventative care such as microchipping, neutering, vaccinations and flea & worming treatments are also necessary, so ensure your budget takes this into account – and don’t forget pet insurance. Any pets rehomed from reputable sources such as Woodgreen will be up to date with all of the above.
● Lifestyle – can you accommodate a pet?
Long working hours, frequent travel and busy social lives are factors worth considering for pet ownership. While cats and smaller species such as hamsters can be a little more independent, dogs need regular play and interaction. If left to their own devices too often, solitude and loneliness can even lead to serious behavioural problems in your pet. It’s also vital that your chosen pet will be able to live happily alongside their new family, it’s always worth enquiring if they would be happy living with young children for example. Consider your lifestyle and be sure to choose a pet you can accommodate reasonably to ensure they are as happy as possible.
● Research – how much do you know about pet ownership?
Getting a new pet is a huge commitment meaning it is essential to carefully research your responsibilities as a pet owner. It’s very important that you are able to meet the Five Welfare Needs as set out in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, you can find out more about these on Woodgreen’s website here.
You may be tempted to start your research on the internet and while it does hold lots of useful information, you must make sure this is coming from a reputable source such as the Kennel Club, the Kitten Checklist and Woodgreen’s own advice articles. You can also chat to friends and family about their chosen pets, and you could even speak to your local vet too. Points such as safety, nutrition, grooming, behavior and training are good places to start the discussion.
● Allergies – do you or your family suffer from allergies?
Be sure that you or your family have no allergies to animals or their fur. If allergies are an issue, it’s worth exploring different breeds of dogs or cats that are best for allergy sufferers. For example, Balinese and Siberian cats are less frequent shedders.
● Exercise – how much exercise can you give a pet?
While a little less important for cats and small domestic pets, exercise is a significant point to consider in dog ownership. It’s fair to assume that every dog will need daily exercise, and the optimal amount can typically depend on the dog’s breed, size and energy levels. Consider how much time you can commit to exercising them, whether it’s a short walk in the morning and a short walk at night, or one long walk on your lunch break. While you will not have to take your cat, guinea pigs or hamster on a walk every day, it’s important they have access to toys and enrichment activities to keep them active and happy.
● Training – can you commit to pet training?
Pet training, which can include obedience, behavioural and lead-walking for dogs, is an important consideration. Basic toilet training for pets takes time, effort, commitment and persistence. Alternatively, hamsters, birds, and fish require less training but would still benefit hugely from enrichment activities. Now you’ve decided on a pet, where do you find them?
If you have an idea of what sort of cat you would like (for example, an affectionate lap cat or an independent hunter), or which breed of dog (an energetic Labrador as the perfect walking companion, or a gentle and laidback King Charles Spaniel), the next step is researching where to find your ideal pet.
● Adoption centres
Whether you’ve decided on a young or older animal, or are open to any age, animal welfare charities house animals of all ages looking for their forever home. They will typically have assessed the animals, and can offer an insight into their character and the suitability to your requirements and your lifestyle.
● Private breeders
If you’re looking to find your pet through a private breeder, try to find out as much as possible about them and ensure they are licensed breeders. There are some amazing, passionate breeders who genuinely produce healthy kittens and puppies. Unfortunately, there are also people who put profit before health and breed animals for the sole purpose of making money. Do your research to ensure they are genuine and have their animals’ welfare as their top priority, you can use websites such as the Puppy Contract and the Kitten Checklist to help you find a reputable breeder.
How to prepare your home for your new pet
● Choose their space
Pick a room or an area of a room where your new pet can adjust to their new surroundings and feel safe and comfortable. The ideal space would be where they can also hide away and sleep without being disturbed (this is especially important if there are young children in your home). Keep a watchful eye on them and encourage them to explore the house too, so they become familiar with their new environment.
● Pet-proof your home
Be aware of potential hazards around the home, and remember that daring puppies, kittens and small pets can squeeze their way into tiny spaces! Pet-proofing ideas include:
● Block gaps under fitted cupboards and around kitchen appliances.
● Screen or cover fireplaces.
● Close all doors and external windows (you could even stick a label or note on them to remind yourself
and family members).
● Move electricity cables out of the way so they won’t chew them or get tangled up in them.
● Remove any items that could be chewed or knocked over.
● Remove any medicines or cleaning fluids.
● Double-check any plants you may have nearby; some, for example, lilies and ivy, can be poisonous for animals (get in touch with your local vet if you’re unsure).
Buy the essentials
● Enrichment feeders (such as slow feeder bowls, Kongs, puzzle feeders, feeding mats) and water
● Pet food.
● A crate and/or bed.
● Thermal bedding, heat pads and blankets for their first few nights.
● Collar and a tag with your contact details on it (also a lead and harness for dogs).
● Safe toys.
● Grooming equipment, including a brush or comb.
● Preventative treatment such as microchipping, neutering and flea & tick treatments.
● Pet insurance: Last but not least, you may need insurance to cover unexpected illnesses and injuries.
Additional for cats:
● Litter and litter tray
● Scratching post
Additional for dogs:
● Puppy-safe chew toys
● Toothpaste and toothbrush (specifically for dogs)
● Poo bags
Pawprint Jewellery – the perfect present for new pet parents
Welcoming a new pet to the family is incredibly exciting! Our unique pawprint jewellery range is the perfect gift for any proud new pet parent. This collection is personalised with a miniaturised version of a pet’s paw, and you can also include their name or initials on some of the pieces.
We’ve made the process as simple as possible when it comes to pawprints. You can provide a copy of a pawprint that you may already have, or we can supply you with an ‘Ink-Free’ Magic Pawprint Kit to take the print. Each print is carefully miniaturised by our specialist designers, who will create your design with love and care. Your finished piece of pawprint jewellery will arrive with you beautifully presented and ready to love forever.
We hope this comprehensive guide has helped first-time pet owners prepare for that magical moment of introducing a new pet to the family!